There is a crisis-level lack of it in modern American culture. Perhaps the biggest problem is all those who view themselves as mini-saviors or white knights, tripping over themselves to be responsible for others. That is an unhealthy mental/behavioral/relationship condition called, “codependency,” in which one party maintains a narcissistic attitude about the relationship and the world, and the other party smooths every facet of life over for their partner.
A “smoother” (enabler) can be a friend, teacher, doctor, preacher/priest, counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist, a spouse/significant other, parent, adult child, or any other professional or family member. The “smoother” will lie to others to make things seem much more normal than they really are. The “smoother” will make all kinds of excuses to cover over the narcissists’ bad behaviors. The “smoother” will sacrifice all of themselves-friendships, career, family members, interests, body, time, money, and self-respect to make sure the narcissist has it easy.
What the “smoother” gets out of this relationship, is a rush of endorphins; a feeling that they’ve protected, helped, given their all, done something truly great in the world. Everyone craves such feelings, but “smoothers” enable bad behavior so they can continue to feel good about themselves. They are really crippling the narcissist, reducing them to an eternal infant status, instead of helping the narcissist stand on their own two feet, discover their wings, and fly.
The narcissist of course, is waited on hand and foot like a king. The “smoother”/enabler acts as an attack dog to defend the narcissist’s “honor,” to keep them from being hurt, or feeling the slightest pangs from life. But like the stereotypical, spoiled king, narcissists know they could never survive without their “smoother”/enabler. Deep down, they are scared, lonely, bored little children. Both parties are addicted to one another, craving mutual attention and praise. In essence, a codependent relationship is like a cult of one. In order to have healthier people and relationships in America, “smoothers” need to step back, and narcissists need to stand up.
It’s time to enable responsibility again.